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What is Social Host Liability? – Diamond and Diamond BC

The new year is a great time to host a party for family and friends. It brings everyone together and allows them to relax and enjoy the end of the year.

Many social gatherings involve serving alcohol. As a host, do you need to worry about the amount of alcohol you are serving to friends and family? The short answer is—Yes! Your guests’ health and safety should be your number one priority. If someone is injured, you may be liable as the social host.

Your Guests and Their Safety

Consuming too much alcohol can obviously pose health risks. Your guests may experience alcohol poisoning if they drink too much, too fast. It can be deadly. It is essential for both your safety and your guests’ safety that you monitor anyone that may be drinking too quickly.

While alcohol poisoning is very serious, it is relatively rare. From 2015 to 2016, it accounted for only 3% of conditions caused by alcohol. Nonetheless, alcohol caused over 5,000 deaths in Canada in 2015 alone. That does not include accidents caused by alcohol use, however.

Many motor vehicle crashes involve alcohol. Those collisions can result in severe and life-threatening injuries. Falling, choking, and an increase in violent occurrences are also common at social gatherings that involve alcohol.

The most important reason to keep an eye on alcohol consumption at your social gathering is for you and your guests’ safety. Consuming too much can result in injuries and even death for both your guests and others.

Social Host Legal Liability

As a social host, you can be held legally liable for incidents caused by your intoxicated guests in some situations. This may be the case if you served your guest alcohol, saw that they were visibly drunk, and you did nothing to prevent them from causing an accident or harm to themselves or others.

While most social host liability cases are against businesses or are in a commercial setting (such as a bar or restaurant), it is possible for party hosts to be liable as well. A social host is anyone who:

  1. Is not selling alcohol for a profit;
  2. Is not an employer or has any position that creates a unique relationship between him or her and their guests; and
  3. Is serving alcohol or permitting the consumption or service of alcohol on premises over which he or she has control.

The definition of a social host, then, includes those who do not serve alcohol but have a “BYOB” (Bring Your Own Beverage) social gathering.

If you host a party at your home, you may have insurance coverage for accidents that result from over-serving your friends and family.

Tips for Party Throwers

Making a party-thrower liable is rare, but it can happen. It is a good idea to use the following tips and information to help decrease your potential legal liability.

  1. Ask who is planning on being the designated driver or how guests will get home before you start serving.
  2. Offer to let guests stay over or call taxis or other friends for rides.
  3. Have non-alcoholic options and plenty of food available.
  4. Keep a close eye on guests and take their keys if you feel they would not be safe behind the wheel.
  5. Roughly an hour before guests will leave, stop serving alcohol and switch to water, soda, tea, or coffee.

Vancouver Personal Injury Lawyers can Help

Stay safe in the new year by being a responsible social host. If you have been involved in an accident related to a social gathering, you may have a legal claim. Contact Diamond and Diamond Lawyers LLP at 1-800-567-HURT or visit our website to speak to someone now about your claim. Consultations are free throughout British Columbia.

Happy new year from everyone at Diamond and Diamond Lawyers LLP!


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